Synergies between dance and fine arts are ancestral, prior to the segmentation between disciplines. In the 20th century, when this compartmentalization is called into question, when the limits between one and the other languages begin to be forced, pioneering dancers like Isadora Duncan and Loie Fuller take the stage.
It is therefore not a matter of indifference that Rodin admired these two women and that by drawing again and again their fluid movements on the stage he also broke with the academic rigidity imposed on the representation of the body.
La Ribot refers to Duncan and Fuller as sources of creativity for her own break with canons of classical ballet. But, paradoxically, contemporary dance had also been restricted to restrictive codes, as Yvonne Rainer pointed out, whose work is also a landmark. Rainer’s self-referential research on dance (stripped of all spectacular and narrative nature) and in relation to subjectivity is reflected (deliberately or unconsciously) in the work of La Ribot.
But her models, since the eighties, does not belong only to the world of dance: Dadaism, the theater of the absurd, Cindy Sherman, silent films and experimental cinema will help her to expand the choreographic language by earning a place in a conceptual non-place (between performance and dance, between the art gallery and the stage).
Some years before Tino Sehgal devised his “situations” for museums and galleries confronting the audience with unexpected and dislocating choreographies that he did not allow to record (for which the collector can only buy ephemeral gestures), La Ribot had already sold to private individuals some of her “Distinguished pieces” (body actions, lasting only a few minutes). The name of the owner added to the title of every corresponding piece was the only trace of the transaction done with these ephemeral works.
But bringing art mercantilism into question is not the main purpose of La Ribot. Her goal is more about the experience of the body as an element that requires the gaze of the other (camera or viewer) to become aware of itself.
In the video piece Mariachi 17 (2009), which these days can be seen in Max Estrella gallery, this continuous swing between subjective experience and the gaze of others is materialized, but here that external eye is a camera that three dancers (Marie-Caroline Hominal, Delphine Rosay and herself) are passed from hand to hand. Being a prosthesis, the camera fails to objectify the body, showing itself always fragmentary, incomplete, elusive.
The rapid pace recording is made up by choreographic movements between quotes from films that have used the resource of mise-en-abysme and photographic frames where theaters under construction establish a game of mirrors with the ramshackle theater in which they are.
The space, like the camera, is also an extension of the body. The former support points have been atomized, so La Ribot explores new equilibria by exploring the horizontality and the impossible angles of a multiple and branched “body-time-space”, where the presence incorporates what is represented.
It was in the video-dance piece Despliegue (2001) where for the first time she underlined the split between an external (top-down camera) and a subjective (handheld camera) point of view, both intervening in the construction of the body on stage. But Mariachi 17 is more directly related to Traveling (2003), where the notion of body-operator is explored individually with four dancers. Every dancer introduces intimate cadences in his choreographic display, so every space is loaded with personal meanings. The Third Act of Bizet’s Carmen queries the integrity of the gestures.
La Ribot often uses music as a diaphonic element: as a dramatic counterpoint to comedy, a comic counterpoint to tragedy, or imbuing the absurd gag with romanticism.
The third piece that the Max Estrella Gallery exhibition includes is Walk the bastards (2017), an space intervention in which spectators become performers, since they are invited to take the chairs, turn them over to read the phrases they have pirogrammed in them (quotes from Wittgenstein, Isadora Duncan …) and sit down, assuming again the role of spectator of other visitors who read their respective chairs. On each occasion, the choreography will be subject to random and spontaneous reaction.
Wood folding chairs have been faithful companions of La Ribot since her beginnings. Let us remember that distinguished piece (n.14, 1997) in which her stylized nudity was only covered by one of these chairs whose seat (where is read se vende) she opened and closed compulsively, as fuelling herself until falling like a rickety automaton on the ground.
The objects and outfits with which she has interacted throughout her career (chairs, wigs, heels…) have also been prostheses to rethink the body: in relation to herself (as a dancer and as a woman), but also in relation to to space and to the viewer.
Prostheses and body extensions that sometimes attend to the fragile and unstable beauty, to the singularity of faulty things, like these chairs whose faults (lame, broken …) condemned them “to the reserve bench” in previous performances of La Ribot, but she now recovers them precisely because their difference.
Take a seat
La Ribot solo show
in Max Estrella Gallery, Madrid